Farm Focus: Smoke on the Orchard

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Our hearts hurt for everybody in Butte and Ventura counties who have been so profoundly affected by these horrendous fires. This "new normal" is astounding in both its intensity and scale.

Even though we are over 150 miles away from the fire here in Brentwood it has been more intense than we’ve experienced before and we thought we would share a little window into how fire impacts agriculture.

The most obvious and tangible effect for staff is the smoke. We have stocked up on N-95 masks for everybody to wear outside. According to the FDA N-95 masks “blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles.” These have been recommended by the state specifically for fire smoke. They are more comfortable than your average construction dust mask and you can definitely feel the difference breathing with one on.

As for the orchard, the effects are much more subtle. The smoke is obviously blocking sunshine which is the source of energy for photosynthesis and keeps temperatures down during the day which slows down the ripening process for our winter citrus. Additionally, dust from the smoke accumulates on the surface of leaves which prevents efficient photosynthesis. The impact of dust and smoke on the citrus crop will probably not be significant but if we continue this pattern of frequent fires the cumulative effect could be significant.

Our fingers are crossed for the potential rain next week to put out the fires, soak our thirsty soil and wash the dust off everything.